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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Friday, January 19, 2024

Whispering Ghosts (1942)

Hollywood studios copying or revisiting what was making their competitors money isn’t a new phenomenon. Since I just covered the Cat and the Canary remake I went back and watched the original, which I love. That got me to thinking I should go see what knockoffs that I could find. With Bob Hope doing that movie and then following it up the following year with the equally awesome The Ghost Breakers I figured someone would have taken notice. While there are a lot of poverty row flicks the one that stood out to me was Whispering Ghosts. This was a decent production and starred Milton Berle. If you couldn’t get Hope in your flick, then the next best thing… as far as former vaudevillian performers go… was Berle.

The movie opens with a woman, Elizabeth, checking out her uncle Eli’s unusual home. He was a sailor and had his ship hauled up on land for him to live in. He was murdered and while it took time, she has finally officially inherited the place. There is also the rumor of a cache of diamonds, so we get a fun buried treasure twist as well.

Then we meet up with famous radio detective H.H. Van Buren (Berle’s character) who claims to have solved Eli’s murder. Though it turns out that he is wrong but still has a week to figure it out as he has promised his audience the big reveal on a live broadcast. That means he and his manservant/sidekick Euclid Brown have to head off to the house looking for clues. There is also a subplot of him playing a mean trick on a fellow performer who sends some actors to the house to mess with him as revenge. This serves to add a couple extra character for shenanigans. Van Buren meets Elizabeth and the actors. Some others show up as well as a storm blows in and wrecks the road. Then shenanigans ensue. In the end though the mystery is solved, and the treasure is found.

This is a decent movie. The pacing is solid as it gets right to the story and the action/comedy. I can’t think of a slow spot in the proceedings as things are spaced out evenly from start to finish. Though it does follow the formula closely with the goofy characters and wisecracking hero that didn’t bother me at all. Like I’ve already mentioned this was made to cash in on the success of the Hope flicks, so I knew what to expect. Berle, while not as great as Hope, is still great in the lead cracking wise and dropping one-liners like the practiced professional he was. The guy was really funny, and I’ve noticed has been forgotten by a lot of younger people. That is a damn shame.

Look kids it's John Carradine!
The rest of the cast is good. Willie Best, who was also in The Ghost Breakers, does his thing. Though much like Mantan Mooreland this doesn’t play well to a modern audience. Plus, there are a couple cringeworthy jokes cracked by Berle at Best’s expense that haven’t aged well at all. Though as someone who has watched movies like this as well as every vaudevillian recording I could find it is obvious that Berle is giving Best some of the best gags so there was some respect there. Though it still is uncomfortable at times. We also get John Carradine as one of the actors hired to mess with them. This allows him to ham it up and chew some scenery in a couple funny gags. Plus, it also leads to a Dracula line from Berle that I found funny. There is some good stuff here.

While not anywhere as fun as the previously mentioned Hope flicks Whispering Ghosts isn’t too bad. Milton Berle is funny and is surrounded by a supporting cast that can help carry the load. The movie gets in cracks some jokes and gets out before getting repetitive and boring. This is totally worth a look. You can find it online for free if you dig a bit.


© Copyright 2024 John Shatzer

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